José María Álvarez-Pallete

Founder, Wayra; COO, Telefónica S.A.

José María Álvarez-Pallete

For creating Silicon Valleys across Latin America and Europe.

While traveling in Silicon Valley in 2010, José María Álvarez-Pallete was struck by the number of talented developers and designers he met-- particularly the number who were Latin American. "I asked myself why these people had to leave their countries to work," he says, and why Telefónica's Latin American offices were forced to order their tech supplies and software programs from abroad. For Telefónica to grow, the Madrid-based exec knew that local tech ecosystems would have to grow. In early 2011, Álvarez-Pallete pitched an accelerator project that would be called Wayra, the Quechua word for wind. Living up to its name, Wayra was off the ground within six months, and by year's end academies were set up in Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. In 2013, Telefónica invested $13.4 million in Wayra projects, and Wayra now boasts 14 academies that have received 23,000 applications and accelerated more than 330 startups, becoming one of the world's largest accelerators in less than two years.

[Image: Flickr user Heisenberg Media]

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